Merwyn’s Green Thumb

We are all familiar with the phrase “it takes a village”, referring to the mentality that we have to work together to achieve our goals. For Merwyn French, making the world a beautiful place through gardening had always been a goal. Merwyn was a Farm Manager in Nebraska until the spring of 2003, when he moved to Lutheran Hillside Village, a Lutheran Senior Services Life Plan Community.

When Merwyn first arrived at Lutheran Hillside Village, there was no garden-but that didn’t stop Merwyn from using his green thumb-he began planting on a vacant lot nearby. He was soon joined by friend Bill Lange, and together the two enjoyed their hobby of horticulture. As their love of planting continued to grow as quickly as their garden, Bill and Merwyn asked Lutheran Hillside Village to approve the initiation of a garden on campus. As soon as Merwyn received the green light, he put his green thumb to work on a small plot, later expanding that small plot throughout the next few years into the expansive garden.

As more and more members of Lutheran Hillside Village noticed the joys that the garden was bringing their neighbors and friends, Merwyn realized he had a big job ahead of him. He worked tirelessly to ensure that all incoming residents were able to have a plot they could cultivate and call their own, as well as ensuring there were plots available for any current residents that decided they would like to give gardening a go. To ensure each plot was ready to be worked, Merwyn would install rails around each plot, sprinklers, and fencing around the garden.

Merwyn passed away in early 2017. However, he left behind a legacy not only to his loving family, but with the entire community at Lutheran Hillside Village. Since more and more residents have flocked to cultivate, harvest and plant in the garden he started, the garden has continued to expand to its current state of 37 designated plots. Thanks to the efforts of Merwyn and the many residents that enlisted to garden alongside him, the garden is a now a source of joy for family members and residents of Lutheran Hillside Village alike, and even produces some of the ingredients used in the kitchens at Lutheran Hillside Village.


During a ceremony in Merwyn’s honor on June 26th, 2017, a plaque was installed declaring the garden as the Merwyn French Garden. Produced and installed by the talented woodworkers at Lutheran Hillside Village, The Woodchucks, Merwyn’s contributions live on not just in the memories of friends and family, but for years to come in the garden he created and by the residents at Lutheran Hillside Village who will continue to care for it and use it at their pleasure.